Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
04 Apr 2011

L’Elisir d’Amore

Donizetti described to his father the premiere cast of L’Elisir in terms of lukewarm praise—the tenor only “passable” the soprano’s voice “pretty” and the bass “a little hammy.”

L’Elisir d’Amore

Adina: Stefania Dovhan; Giannetta: Meredith Lustig; Nemorino: David Lomeli; Belcore: José Adán Pérez; Dulcamara: Marco Nisticò. Brad Cohen, Conductor. Jonathan Miller, Production Designer. Isabella Bywater, Set/Costume Designer. New York City Opera, March 26, 2011.

Above: Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera

 

(Doubtful, though, is Emilia Branca’s tale that Donizetti complained of a Dulcamara with a “voice like a goat.”) Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the singers, the score won the day.

Could it have been otherwise? L’Elisir is so ingenious, so bubbly, so amusing—and at the same time so moving and heartfelt—that it proved a huge and instantaneous success. It charged confidently into the international repertory and never lost steam. Nearly two centuries later, it’s still almost impossible to botch L’Elisir beyond redemption. And so it is with New York City Opera’s production: carried by Donizetti’s brilliant music, Romani’s witty and singable verses, an attractive production, and a much more than “passable” tenor, the performance I attended delighted even as it disappointed.

To a modern audience, the American Southwest during the 1950s seems a remote and idyllic time, and Jonathan Miller’s 2006 production therefore neatly fit the spirit of the piece; every detail was skillfully thought out and Isabella Bywater’s sets and costumes were a delight. The locus is Adina’s Diner, the gathering place of choice for a desert community near a military base. Dulcamara rolls up to the gas pumps in a vintage hotrod, sporting spectator shoes; Nemorino wears mechanics togs; the chorus consists of greasers, fry cooks, soldiers and women in poodle-skirts and cat-eyed glasses. Adina is a sort of Marilyn Monroe, Giannetta a less prominent Maureen O’Hara. Belcore struts around in a Marine uniform and indulges in Elvis-like pelvic gyrations.

The direction of this revival left much to be desired, and seemed motivated more by a desire for cheap laughs than by an understanding and appreciation of the text. As Donizetti’s biographer William Ashbrook observed, the most groundbreaking feature of L’Elisir is that it is not mere slapstick, and its lieto fine occurs because Adina realizes Nemorino’s true goodness and sincerity; L’Elisir succeeds because there is real emotional depth here.

With all this in mind, let it be admitted that Nemorino is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; but for Romani he is a gullible, uneducated country lad with a big heart. In the Miller production he is painted as borderline developmentally disabled. He claps gleefully, jogs in place, bats imaginary balls and jumps up and down as if he were five years old, much of the time wearing a dopey expression. In line with disturbing current trends, excessive stage action often interferes with some of the most important musical and dramatic moments. During Adina’s solo in “Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera,” Nemorino unwittingly spills salt, tossing handfuls around as Adina tries frantically to clean it up. During her duet with Dulcamara (dramatically the turning point of the opera), Adina reaches so deeply into his pocket that his expression plainly tells us where her hand has wandered. In the women’s chorus that begins Act II, a toilet flushes as they stand in line waiting for the restroom, provoking a few nervous scatological giggles; later Nemorino, sickened by his excessive consumption of the “elixir,” runs to the same bathroom to be sick.

Elixir0040.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and David Lomelí as Nemorino

This is all a shame, but even this cloud of directorial dust, tenor David Lomeli was able to show Nemorino’s passionate nature, his innocence and his vulnerability. Indeed, only his artistry raised the afternoon out of vocal mediocrity. Lomeli never lost sight of what makes Nemorino such a sympathetic character, even as he acted the fool. He sang a wistful “Quanto e bella,” and his impassioned solo passage, “Adina, credimi,” in the first act finale tugged at the heartstrings. An achingly tender, beautifully shaped “Una furtiva lagrima” earned him the loudest cheers of the evening. Lomeli has a lovely, light voice with varying colors and a good sense of how to use dynamic shading; there is a beautiful, genuine Italianate squillo there too. He warmed up quickly after a slightly underpowered start, and hit his stride with full confidence by the time of his duet with Dulcamara.

As Adina, Stefania Dovhan was less than ideal casting. She is physically very attractive, and the voice is intermittently beautiful and expressive, but on the whole it is too harsh and inflexible for the role. Her voice doesn’t have much color; her acuti, while on pitch, were rather grating, and she does not handle coloratura cleanly. Though there were isolated moments of real feeling, for the most part it was a flat, rather riskless portrayal; the shift from fickle and vindictive vixen to loving fiancée was a bit too abrupt and not very convincing.

Elixir0043.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and Marco Nisticò as Dulcamara

As for José Adán Pérez’s Belcore and Marco Nisticò’s Dulcamara, all their comic silent-movie face-pulling and pelvic thrusts couldn’t hide the fact that they sounded vocally undernourished and fudged the coloratura. In his duet with Lomeli, Nisticò’s vocal line drowned beneath his partner’s. Brad Cohen conducted a brisk if at times somewhat hurried performance. The orchestra sounded marvelous but for one horn mishap. The chorus was well-rehearsed and in fine form.

Daniel Foley

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):